Christine Cushing wants to teach “lovable losers” how to cook
Spirited TV chef Christine Cushing is on a mission to transform Toronto’s “hopeless lovable losers” into confident cooks on her new reality series, Fearless in the Kitchen. The show, which premieres this fall on the Viva Network, is one part Kitchen Nightmares and two parts Makeover Story. Episodes will feature true cooking amateurs—who will have been tested to prove that they can’t even fry an egg—being treated to lessons by Cushing (for whom “failure is not an option”). Fearless promises all the voyeuristic appeal we’ve come to expect from this sort of endeavour, complete with laughable neophytes, surprise challenges and, as Cushing puts it, a little bit of “oh crap, what’s gonna happen?”
With a line of her own products (including an award-winning olive oil), three cookbooks and countless small-screen episodes to her name, a reality series is the next logical step for the chef. For Cushing, the appeal is interaction, and giving her fans a more intimate glimpse with a less scripted format. “People who know me from TV are going to get to know me better. I will just be hanging out.”
The French-trained Cushing is planning a respectful Marco Pierre White approach over Ramsay-esque bullying for the 13 commissioned episodes of Fearless. Though she has worked with plenty of tough types in her culinary career, one of her most memorable mentors was Keith Froggett of Scaramouche. “He didn’t teach with fear,” she says. “He was knowledgeable, but low key, quietly confident.” Like Froggett did for her, she wants to empower wannabe chefs and give them the tools to develop the self-assured attitude that she feels is essential to conquering the kitchen.
When we ask what advice she has for those Toronto chefs-in-the-making who won’t make it onto Fearless, she emphasizes ingredient sourcing. For choice chops, Cushing likes the Healthy Butcher on Eglinton: “It’s a place where you can really be in touch with your meat,” she says. She finds first-rate fromage at Cole Snell’s All About Cheese, which is “like a classroom.” And for fresh catch, she swears by City Fish on Dufferin.
When Cushing ventures out to eat, it’s to places with a more foodie-friendly feel. Nota Bene is a favourite for higher-end dining (she loves David Lee); Café Nervosa in Yorkville gets top marks for pizza. She’s also enamoured of Mount Pleasant’s Il Gelatiere, where she’s spied a food barter between the spot’s Roman owner, Alessandro Buccianti, and Célestin’s Pascal Ribreau (typically ravioli for gelati, she reports). Sounds like a good deal to us, but who’s bringing the wine?